'Under the guise'

After it was reported in September that he had been airlifted out of a fishing trip by a Canadian Forces helicopter, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was called to explain his actions in the House of Commons. His first response came to a question from Liberal MP Scott Simms.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question from the honourable member, I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010, on a personal visit with friends for which I paid. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 Squadron of 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration and later flew on to do government business in Ontario.

The NDP’s Jack Harris asked the minister next and Mr. MacKay restated his version of events.

Mr. Speaker, I think I just explained that I shortened a personal visit to take part in a search and rescue demonstration in Gander.

Now the Star has obtained emails that detail the preparation, planning and internal concerns around that pick-up.

When word of MacKay’s flight first leaked out, his excuse was that a military airlift would combine the minister’s need to attend to government business with the air force’s long-standing offer to conduct a search-and-rescue demonstration. But there is no mention in the records obtained by the Star that MacKay wished to take up any offer to see the highly trained crews at work. It is not until the next day, Wednesday July 7, that the orders go out that “this mission will be under the guise of … SAR (training).”